An Experts Guide to Choosing a Chess Tournament p.1

I was recently perusing the United States Chess Federation (USCF) website looking for tournaments to play in for June and July. Unfortunately I couldn’t figure out how to make most of them fit my busy schedule. I had objections to many of the tournaments for a variety of reasons (I’ll get to this in a sec). I keep a running notepad document I call “Upcoming Tournaments” and usually update it twice a month. I’m on the USCF Website Advisory committee so I won’t comment on the state of the USCF website but I will say they are aware of most of the issues and are working to fix them. Below is the list of tournaments that are within a reasonable driving/flying distance for me here in Rochester, NY (copied from the aforementioned file).

June 1-2, 2013 2013 Guelph pre-Summer ProAm (Guelph, Ontario, Canada)
June 1-2   Rhode Island State Championship (RI)
June 1-2   4th Annual Catonsville-Fells Point Open (MD)
June 1 or June 1-2   2013 Madison Spring Championship (WI)
June 14-16   63rd New Hampshire Open (NH)
June 15   Syracuse-Minoa June Open (NY)
June 19-23, 21-23 or 22-23   6th New York International (NY)
June 21-23 or 22-23   2013 Statesville Open (NC)
June 21-23 or 22-23   2013 Columbus Open (OH)
June 23   48th Binghamton Monthly Tournament (NY)
June 27-July 1   DC International   (VA)

As you can see it’s a pretty comprehensive list spanning the east coast and even Canada. Given this list I start to narrow down which tournaments I can play in/want to play in. First and foremost I’m headed to the Poconos the weekend of the 1-2 so all of those tournaments through no fault of their own are out; which leaves 7 possible tournaments. Of those 7 one is in North Carolina; which is a 10 hour drive and not a cheap flight (>$200), so that one is out. The DC International is a longer tournament I probably don’t qualify to play in (also the dates don’t really work) so that one is out too giving us 5 total tournaments for June:

  • June 14-16   63rd New Hampshire Open (NH)
  • June 15   Syracuse-Minoa June Open (NY)
  • June 19-23, 21-23 or 22-23   6th New York International (NY)
  • June 21-23 or 22-23   2013 Columbus Open (OH)
  • June 23   48th Binghamton Monthly Tournament (NY)

This is where my research starts. Take the first tournament listed: the 63rd NH Open. I had plans to play in this tournament, I even have a friend who lives in Nashua who I could stay with for free (not paying for a hotel room is a HUGE plus). “Perfect!” I thought, and I began to read about the tournament:

June 14-16   63rd New Hampshire Open

Trophies Plus Grand Prix Points: 20 (Enhanced)

5-SS, Rd. 1 40/100, SD/60 d5; Rds. 2-5 40/120, SD/60 d5. Comfort Inn, exit 4 (Queen City Bridge) off I-293, Manchester, NH. 603-668-2600. $$ 2,100 Gtd. 3 sects. Open: $400-225-125, U2100 $200. NH Champion title to top scoring NH resident. U1950: $180-120-80, U1800 $150. U1650: $180-120-80, U1450 $100, U1250 $80, U1050 $60. All: EF $50 if recd. by 6/12, $55 at site. GMs, IMs free. Special $5 EF discount to players 18/under who are U1250 or Unr, or 65/over. Reg.: 5:30-6:30 p.m. Fri 6/14 and 8:30-9:30 a.m. Sat. 6/15. Players entering Sat. receive 1/2 pt. bye for Rd. 1. Rds.: Fri. 7:00 p.m., Sat. 10-4:30, Sun. 9:30-4:00. NHCA Annual Meeting Sun. at 9:00 a.m. NHCA memb. req. for rated NH residents: $8 adult, $6 junior 18/under. Bye: 1-4 with entry, limit 1. Unrated may play in any sect. but can’t win 1st except in Open. HR: $80-80, reserve early and mention tnmt. Ent: NHCA, c/o Robert Messenger, 4 Hamlett Dr., Apt. 12, Nashua, NH 03062. Info: 603-891-2484 or Cks. payable to NHCA. NS. W.

You see that mess? This is the mess from which I am left to sort through for pertinent information such as location, entry fee, time controls, round times etc. I start reading and lo and behold there’s a tiny little tidbit that pertains to me:

Players entering Sat. receive 1/2 pt. bye for Rd. 1.

Well that’s interesting, usually these tournaments have a 3-day and 2-day option. The 3-day option is usually for locals who can play at 7:00pm on a Friday night. The 2-day option (usually for out-of-towners) doesn’t seem to exist in any real form for this particular tournament. This means that if I were to show up I would immediately start at a disadvantage from the rest of the field because I would play less games, and receive a half point where I could have earned a full point. Sure it’s possible that I could lose in the first round which would make the 1/2 point quite attractive… but I prefer to control my own fate. Plus I want to play chess games. If I only wanted to play four games, I’d play in a four round tournament instead of a five round tournament. Now surely some of you are thinking, “But Josh, can’t you just drive up early Friday to make the 7:30 round?” Sure, I could. Let’s do some quick math: It takes approx 7 hours to get from Rochester, NY to Manchester, NH. Which means I would have to leave Rochester at 11 AM or 12 PM at the latest… which means I would have to basically take the day off of work; which I am not willing to do. Now let’s go through the rest of this list:

Syracuse-Minoa is a fine event run by Joe out in Syracuse who runs nice tournaments (albeit a bit antiquated with the hand pairings). Unfortunately lately he hasn’t seemed to get the turnout that I would want for a four round tournament… which means the prizes get screwed up and makes the pairings kind of wonky. So despite the fact that Joe is a nice guy and he provides snacks for players; (something I haven’t seen ANYONE else do) Syracuse is a no-go (until he can produce more than 6 people for a four round tournament). The 6th NY International is hosted in NYC (already a bit of a problem for me) and of course has a NYC price tag associated with it ($275), combined with the fact that it’s a 6 round tournament over 2 days is a bit much for me; so that’s out. I haven’t played in Binghamton before but unfortunately they share a date with Columbus which I’ve decided to play in. So we have the Columbus Open which is a 6 hour drive from Rochester, NY. Now let’s check out their entry, oh look they have a website, Awesome! Usually Tournament Directors (TD’s) who bother to maintain a website also have online entry available… no such luck. OK no problem, I’ll read the instructions and send in my entry fee via USPS. Oh look there’s even a form I can fill out with the pertinent tournament information. (See part 2 for my discussion of this particular form and others like it).

I hope this gives a good insight into part of the ways I choose tournaments to play in. Stay tuned for part two where I discuss how we can change the format and design of tournament listings and tournament forms. Any comments are always welcome, I look forward to hearing from you.


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